|Conservatives like me tend to view the concept of “hate speech” with jaundiced skepticism in this age of political correctness. The terminology is so frequently misapplied to relative trivialities, and used as a tactical weapon by the politically correct, that it has become devalued from overuse.
People who object to abortion and other causes advocated by militant feminism are alleged to “hate women.” Those who assert that state-imposed multiculturalism is a bad idea are said to promote hatred of minorities. And of course, persons who refuse to accept homosexuality as a moral, alternative lifestyle and who object to the gay-rights agenda are accused of promoting hatred against homosexuals.
When every expression of principled opposition to the politically correct point of view du jour can be conveniently dismissed as “hatred,” the term becomes meaningless. There really are such things as hatred of homosexuals, misogyny, and xenophobia, but about 98 per cent of “hatred” accusations are politically and ideologically motivated innuendo designed to chill debate and smear the opposition.
So when someone expressing real hate is encountered, the politically correct have nothing to say that they already haven’t already used to slander people of good will who disagree with their agenda. A case in point is American anti-gay activist, the Rev. Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., who had planned to bring his ugly message to Ottawa recently. Phelps bailed at the last minute, concerned that he wouldn’t receive adequate police protection.
Unlike most of the people characterized as “hate-mongers,” Phelps, by his own public admission, really does hate homosexualists, and is proud of it. He operates a Website entitled godhatesfags.com, and gained notoriety for demonstrating at the funeral of murdered homosexualist college student Matthew Shepard in Wyoming last fall carrying his signature placard, “God hates fags.”
This is offensive to more than just the homosexualist community and their fellow-travellers. For starters, it is a gross misrepresentation of true Christian belief. As the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which strongly opposes the gay rights agenda, stated in a release, “We are aggrieved by the messages and tactics that have been used by Mr. Phelps in the name of Christianity.” Dr. Darryl Reid, president of Focus on the Family Canada, commented: “I am grieved that people would engage in activities in the name of Christ that can only be described as hate-mongering.”
Real Christians affirm that God loves homosexualists every bit as much as He loves everyone else. However, on the strength of biblical authority, we are confident that God is saddened by what homosexuals do sexually. Christians are instructed to hate sin but love sinners (we are all sinners), while respecting the personhood and dignity of fellow human beings, whether or not we approve of their behaviour. Love, properly understood, has steel in it as well as flowers. Jesus did not shirk from condemning sin and moral failure; neither should His followers.
All that we know of Christ comes from the Bible and Apostolic Tradition. The late evangelical Protestant philosopher Francis Schaeffer observed, “You cannot legitimately say, ‘I am a Christian, but I believe the Church’s teaching is false and the Bible is full of errors.'” However much revisionist interpreters, innovative scriptural “translators,” and “creative historians” wish it weren’t so, the Bible and Apostolic Tradition unequivocally condemn homosexual behaviour as a moral abomination. Here the problem lies. To the politically correct, the Bible’s message is “hateful.”
Last July, a citizen named Hugh Owens placed a paid advertisement in the Regina Leader-Post containing quotes from the Bible on homosexualism. The homosexualist community declared the Bible texts “disgusting,” and launched a human rights complaint against Owens and the newspaper.
But wait! Adultery and heterosexual promiscuity are also condemned by the New Testament, and categorized as sinful in Christian doctrine. Would it be reasonable to accuse the Church and faithful Christians of “hate-mongering” because they criticize these practices as being morally wrong, and try to persuade people from engaging in them? Do Christians “hate” adulterers and promiscuous persons because we disapprove of their immoral behaviour? Of course not!
Neither do Christians promote “hatred” of homosexuals by insisting that homosexual behaviour is morally disordered and sinful. Faithful Christians are duty-bound to measure all behaviours against the standard and authority of Holy Scripture, but our commission is to lovingly articulate the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not to condemn or judge persons. Judgment of individuals is God’s job.